sanglot: Christmas time and tears


On Day One we peddled our wines (meeting with an importer) at the Piccadilly Market in London...

~~~~~~~~~~~~ Language Learning ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Oxford Take Off In French: (CD-ROM): Follow an integrating course including activities and dialogues with native speakers so you can feel confident in day-to-day conversation.

foire (fwar) noun, feminine
    : fair
    : trade fair

[from the Latin "feriae" = holidays)

Note: this seems to be one case where a look-alike verb does *not* reflect the same meaning as the noun ("foirer" means "to have the runs"! Then again, some might argue that processed foire food is the missing link between the noun and the verb!)

Update!: turns out there *is* a second meaning to "foire":

A related Latin noun, "foria", means "diarrhea" and the word "foire", or "fair", eventually came to be used figuratively as a place where disorder and confusion reign. "Faire la foire" in contemporary French means to abandon oneself to a life of debauchery.

--from the book "Gender on the Market: Moroccan Women and the Revoicing of Tradition"

Don't miss the "Terms & Expressions" just after the shopping section below...

At the French Winegrowers' Fair in London, the participants were looking defeated. Fluorescent lighting added to the pasty pallor that we wore on our faces like death... that is: the death of wine sales!

Fair goers just weren't buying. (But, boy--oh boy!--were they ever "trying"! With clinking glasses and a "slur" in their step, the crowd proceeded to sample... and sip. "Thanks a lot," they said, the wine in their glasses now spent. "We'll just have a look around now... and get back to you in a moment."

At a stand in the next aisle, two sales women wore upside down smiles. I looked over to my "stand sisters" across the way and they puffed out their lips, commiserating "Ce n'est pas vrai!"*

By day two the French winegrowers had resorted to new sales-garnering tactics: one, in the form of a towering, blue-eyed brunette, and another, via some seductive pâté aux cèpes!*

I glanced over to our stand sisters across the aisle who, leary of all that, uncorked their bottles and (glug, glug, glug) mumbled "down with the hatch!"

*     *     *

Post note: Thankfully, for Jean-Marc and me, we were saved by a Francophile coterie.* Many thanks to those of you who responded to our invitations and, even more, showed up with friends! It was lovely to meet you all. And thank you for letting us snap your photo. I think we captured most of your smiling faces (except Misha's!... which reminds me: mille mercis to Alicia Weston and to Mikhail Kalinichev--our warm and doting hôtes*: I hope one day to find in me a host as graceful and gallant as these!

View London Photo Album (part one... more photos on the way...)

Comments, corrections, and suggestions welcome here.

ce n'est pas vrai
= this just can't be happening; le pâté (m) aux cèpes = porcini mushroom pâté; la coterie (f) = a circle of people with common interests; l'hôte (m) = host (l'hôtesse = hostess)

In Music: A French Christmas
Cèpes / Porcini Mushrooms
In film: Joyeux Noel

Childrens' book: "Three French Hens". The three French hens from the familiar Christmas song are sent by a Parisian lady to her boyfriend, Philippe Renard, in New York. Alas, the hens wind up in lost mail, and when they can't find Philippe in the phone book, they think perhaps they should translate his name: Phil Fox.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Hear French Words~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sound file: Listen to today's word, "foire" and this expression: "la foire aux vins" Download FoireDownload Foire

Terms & Expressions
la foire aux plaisirs = funfair
le champ de foire = fairground
la foire agricole = agricultural show
avoir la foire = to have the runs
faire la foire = to party hardy
la foire d'empoigne = free-for-all

Do you know of any related terms and expressions? Please share them, for all to see, in the comments box.

A Message from KristiOngoing support from readers like you keeps me writing and publishing this free language journal each week. If you find joy or value in these stories and would like to keep this site going, donating today will help so much. Thank you for being a part of this community and helping me to maintain this site and its newsletter.

Ways to contribute:
1.Zelle®, The best way to donate and there are no transaction fees. Zelle to [email protected]

2.Paypal or credit card
Or purchase my book for a friend and so help them discover this free weekly journal.
For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Don't forget - in this day and age - foire aux questions, from FAQ, which started out as an English acronym (for Frequently Asked Questions).


avril rustage

Surely the English language expression is: "party hearty"? I don't think "party hardy" makes sense. I believe the error derives from the U.S. pronunciation of 't' as 'd' ("party" as "pardy"), hence 'hearty' becomes 'hardy'.
Love the newsletter and look forward to it.


There's a third meaning as well - "Foirer" is also a really naughty word (think the F word) similar to échouer or rater, ie to mess up.


Allo Kristin,

I have been enjoying your Word a Day for some time now and I have even had fun sharing some comments from time to time.... I too am married to an amazing Frenchman and we have 2 children now both grown, but we spent many summers in France where my French family lives. I loved seeing your photos of St Jean de Luz since we had a few summers in Guethary on the beach. (My Patrick was premier danseur at the Paris Opera and I danced with American Ballet Theatre in New York and so we met through our careers.)

Anyway, I am writing to you now because of your London trip. It made me think you might be able to help us. Our daughter Noelle graduated this past May with her master's degree in costume design (from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh) and she has her heart set on relocating to London to start her new life there : ( sniff........ As her mom, I hate to see my best friend move out of my life so far away, but I also know she must go and at least try it. I dread the airport scene coming in the near future, sheesh.

In discussing with her the different ways to pursue this (expensive) goal, we came up with the suggestion to try to find a family that would rent her a room for three months while she tries to get on her feet. That way she would not be so alone and they would be helpful in showing her "the ropes" (i.e. banking, transportation, best places to find a new cell phone, etc). AND her parents would not worry as much seeing her going so far away.

I have spent the last month asking everyone in our world (friends, relatives, acquaintances, friends-of-friends....) if they know ANYone who might know such a situation. She is anxious to buy her plane ticket to get to London by the end of January when she has organized work interviews (she has her EU passeport).

So today when I saw the photos of your "hotes" that you referred to, I got an idea. I wondered if you could connect us with any London folk who might have a room to rent to a young Franco-American woman just starting out? I know this seems like a long shot, but I must try. You don't know me as well as I feel I know you because of your blog, but I hope you don't mind my long email.

Anyway, Kristin, thanks for reading my story. I often wonder about more of your own story and how you met your Frenchman and how difficult it might be to live so far away from your chere mamman (I am thinking of her alot as I head into saying goodbye to my own daughter..........) Will you celebrate Thanksgiving? If so, have a special day with your delightful family!



Thanks, Patti. If anyone knows of a room for rent in London, you may let Patti know via my address (see it there in the right-hand sidebar under "contact". Please include "host in London" in the email subject line). I'll forward any emails to Patti.


Johanna DeMay

Milles mercis, chère Kristin, for coming to my rescue! Today it is my turn to present "The Word of the Day" in my French class à L'Alliance Française. I've been looking for a clever idea - my classmates are all veterans of French travel, some are former residents of the country, and all are life long students of a language I've only recently begun to acquire. And they are a witty bunch, to boot!
"Foire" will do me nicely, since as you know, we make our living at "Foires d'Arts et Artesanies", so I can have a good time enhancing your offering with a few fun stories of my own!

This weekend we are off to do our last "foire" of the year, and as the economy continues to "foirer", we may all need to console ourselves with a good bottle of wine when it's all over!

Bon chance, cherie! May all our "foires" be successful!

Johanna DeMay


Thanks for sharing your London album. I look forward to the rest of it. Your words are helping me so much now that I'm actually in Paris, again. I get the opportunity to figure out how to fit my word-a-day into my conversation. It's always interesting. Merci beaucoup beaucoup beaucoup!


Great to see photos of your trip to London! Looks like it was a fun time and good connecting in the business world.

Catherine Stock

Hey Kristin,
I have a new children's book out about France. It's called The Day We Danced in Underpants, by Sarah Wilson. I only did the illustrations. It's sort of a French farce...


Hello johanna DeMay and everyone,

Here are a few other fairs for you:
-> la foire du livre = Book Fair
-> la foire aux bestiaux = Cattle Fair
-> la foire commerciale = Trade Fair / Trade Show

FOIRER (for plan, project, exam -->
Abject confession:
J'ai tout foiré = I've made a complete mess, I failed.

“Avoir la foire / foirer”, is quite an old slang for having diarrheoa / diarrhea. Outdated? Nowadays, I think it's been taken over by “avoir la courante” which is precisely -> to have “the runs” (such realistic expressions!)

Just thinking about how “larrons” [litt. larrons = thieves] get on so well with each other at a fairground. Hence the expression:
Ils s'entendent "comme larrons en foire" = They are "as thick as thieves".

Hi Kristin and Jean-Marc!
I think the Londoners are feeling the pinch from the credit crunch!
Anyway, it's fantastic to know your wine has now reached the other side of the Channel. I feel so happy and privileged to have met you. It was so marvellous!

Signed -> one of the FWAD “clique”...


forgot to say THANKS for the photos!
... and more to come? Oooh!


As a followup to ksam's observation, if you call someone an "enfoiré(e)," you had best be prepared to run. This is a *very* naughty pejorative, and those dictionaries which print it usually surround it with asterisks!

Fred Caswell

Can't help wondering what makes a word "naughty"? -- what possibly could a word do to be naughty? Also wonder why anyone would call a word "naughty" unless they have some kind of acquaintance with those "bad" words and feel more virtuous than those nefarious "mots". Whyis it that we don"t call some words "moral" or "virtuous"?

True some words elicit awe, admiration, and pleasurable satisfaction; I believe that some "naughty" mots can do the same in certain or different situations. Isn't it true that words, in themselves, are empty sounds or sights or actions that exit only because "we" gave them birth and assigned meanings to them?

No offense intended as my mind is always thinking along this vein -- wondering, questioning, challenging usually with "Why?"
-- also "Why not?" -- "since When?" and "Who says so?" etc....

Could it be that Chaucer had no moral judgments regarding some "off color" or "classless" words in his now considered classic Canterbury Tales?


Je trouve les expressions très intéressantes sur ce blog.

L'expression "la foire aux plaisirs = funfair" n'est pas très adaptée. Le mot 'funfair' est plus proche de "fête foraine" ou de "parc d'attractions".


following some ideas expressed in the 3 posts above:

The French words “imbécile, sot, stupide” are realistic enough and straight to the point. Calling such a person un/une "enfoiré(e)" is vulgar, scornful & offensive.

Funfair is “la foire” = “la fête foraine” - the fairground people being “les forains”. We think of merry-go-rounds, bumper cars, wheels, stalls ...
Although “La foire aux plaisirs” (sometimes called “la kermesse”) is often the expression used for the annual school fete, there is a unique and gigantic “Funfair” called “La Foire aux plaisirs”, in the town of Bordeaux (twice a year, for 3 weeks – a tradition since 1850).

Bob Haine

Reminds me of Ray Bradbury's science-fiction novel, "Something Wicked This Way Comes", about a very strange carnival that comes to a small Midwestern town at the end of October, with a carousel and other rides that promise whatever you want but instead deliver just the opposite. The French title is "La Foire aux tenebres".

Eve Robillard

K--They should've said "Ce n'est pas juste."
But my dear, it's that way all over. It's not so bad. Well, it is but then . . . what could be so bad about a simpler holiday? Less extravagant lighting? Less blowing of one's $$$? Less charge accounting? Atheletes receiving less than 10M per an?
Less ridiculousness at the superbowl halftime? I'm sick of all that!!! Have a charming, simple, peaceful holiday! xxxeve

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)